Anesthesiologists are masters of creating the state of general anesthesia by guiding patients into a state of unconsciousness, where perception, movement and memory are all suspended. However, at present, the approach to reversing the process is merely to let patients just come to. General anesthesia takes a while to wear off, resulting in prolonged grogginess for patients, and in the need for recovery room staff and beds to remain occupied for longer periods.
In 2011, Emery Brown and colleagues unveiled a way to actively revive patients from anesthesia. In a study published in Anesthesiology, they reported that mammals could be quickly and lucidly revived with the Ritalin, a process that Brown calls “reanimation.” The drug commonly associated with treating ADHD works by blocking the reuptake of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which then promotes activity in circuits that control arousal.
The finding has opened the door to actively bringing patients out of general anesthesia by reducing the duration and severity of nagging postoperative side effects such as respiratory compromise and cognitive dysfunctions, particularly in the elderly.
Above: EEG waves show a much more aroused state compared to under general anesthesia after administration of Ritallin.